A Texas law that would have eliminated city-mandated water breaks was ruled unconstitutional by a Texas judge.

State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County wrote in court documents that House Bill 2127, in its entirety, is unconstitutional. She sided with Houston, San Antonio and El Paso, which filed a suit against the state earlier this summer. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June 2023.

HB 2127, also known as the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, would have eliminated water breaks mandated by some cities for commercial and residential construction workers, despite record heat throughout the summer. Proponents argued that local ordinances are too rigid and do not allow the flexibility to tailor breaks to individual jobsite conditions.

“These ordinances just add confusion and encourage people to do the minimum instead of doing the right thing,” said Geoffrey Tahuahua, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas.

Opponents of the law, such as Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, said that the state aimed to punish cities by targeting local control and government.

“HB 2127 was a power grab by the legislature and an unwarranted and unconstitutional intrusion into local power granted to Houston and other home-rule cities by the Texas Constitution,” says Turner. “HB 2127 was intended to mire large cities like Houston in endless litigation at taxpayer expense as cities and businesses struggle to discern what HB 2127 meant.”

David Michaels, former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said HB 2127 proponents are misguided. He told the Texas Tribune that while OSHA law ensures employers are responsible for worker safety, OSHA has “compelling evidence that [employers] are doing a very poor job because many workers are injured on the job, especially in Texas.”

Along with targeting mandatory water breaks, HB 2127 also intended to end city ordinances that required employers to provide paid sick leave and, in the case of Harris County, a $15 minimum wage for construction workers on county projects.

Turner writes in a statement that the law would have stymied existing and future local ordinances that protect workers and consumers against payday lenders and labor abuses, among other things.

The state has appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. The law was supposed to go into effect on September 1.

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